Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

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Doing work that matters

Last week, I wrote one of the most popular posts ever on this blog.  It was about the difference between doing normal work, and doing work that matters I recommend you read it, before continuing with this post.

One of the many emails I received following that post, was from Giles Payne in Canada.  Giles asks an excellent question, which echoed what the majority of you asked me.  Here’s the question along with my answer:

I know it’s impossible to tell each reader what we, individually, should do in order to switch to the work that matters model, but can you help us with some ideas on where to start, Jim?

Your craft

The best general advice I can give, regarding where you should start, is with your craft.

  • Your craft is the element of your work, which is uniquely you.
  • Your craft is the creativity you inject into what you do.
  • Your craft is about creating something fresh, which then touches the lives of other people.

If you give 100 people a pencil and paper and ask them to draw a bridge, you will get 100 unique drawings.  Each of these drawings shows how that person sees and depicts a bridge.  No one is right.  No one is wrong.  Everyone is unique.

In business, those who successfully apply their craft, accept the fact that they are unique and allow their uniqueness to touch everything they do.  Commercially, the magic begins when your craft produces something, which others see unique value in.  Doing work that matters is what I call the development and delivery of your craft.

The majority of business owners struggle, because they focus on being like their competitors, but just a little, cheaper, faster or better.  By being too similar to their competitors, they render themselves almost invisible.  They get into the numbers game.  They find themselves selling on price, not value.

How doing work that matters can be a game changer

Imagine you are looking to buy a tablet device today.  For most people, they are faced with the following question: Do I buy an iPad or one of the other devices?  In reality, that is not the correct question.  There are dozens of choices and some are very good indeed.  The thing is, Steve Jobs’ approach to doing work that matters, means Apple produced a game-changing device that has so far, eclipsed everything else.

It’s worth remembering that Apple were not first to market with a tablet by a LONG way!  Toshiba and others were producing tablet devices many years before Apple; yet they failed to produce anything that excited the marketplace.  They simply produced what were essentially laptops, with a touch screen.  They failed to use their craft to develop something fresh and compelling.

Sharing your craft

It takes courage to share your craft with the marketplace, rather than do work that’s expected.  That’s because the more unique you are, the more visible you become.  If there are 10,000 people standing in a stadium, wearing white shirts, and you are standing in the middle, wearing a red shirt, you will draw more attention than any of them.  That’s because people’s attention is drawn to that, which is different.

Here on this blog, I share my craft with you very publicly.  I try to write useful material for you, based on my unique experience and my particular approach to marketing and business development.  Everything I do here is visible.  Every idea I share is open to debate.  However, as a direct result of sharing my craft, every day a subset of my readers contact me, to see how I can help them develop their business. 

Whilst I’m sharing my craft here, there are marketing providers all over the world, attending networking groups, pestering people for business leads.  Many of those marketing providers are talented.  However, they need to ask people for referrals, because they focus on doing what’s expected, rather than applying their craft to doing work that matters.  I have helped dozens of fellow marketing professionals to overcome this challenge and the first step always, is to focus on your craft.  That is my suggestion to you too, regardless of your industry or profession.

That’s a pretty long answer to that initial question, but the subject is way too important to dismiss with anything less.

I hope you found this post useful!

Photo: Orin Zebest

Attract the attention and respect of your marketplace, with this 1 simple idea!

Every time you follow the flock, you become a little more invisible.  Now, if you are trying to avoid being noticed, that’s a very useful tactic.  However, if you are a business owner seeking to attract the attention of your marketplace, it’s not such a wise move.

Fear as your compass

The more of your original self, which you incorporate into your marketing, the more visible you become.  The challenge here, is that it takes a lot of courage to be yourself and express your own opinions.  It’s far easier to do what the sheep do, by saying nothing original and adopting the beliefs and opinions of the rest of the flock.

In my experience, those who express themselves honestly and those who are too fearful to express what they believe, both use fear as their compass.  Where the difference comes, is in the way they navigate with that compass.

  • Those who feel the need to; join the tribes, use the buzz words, offer “me too” opinions, follow the gurus and express only what they believe will not be challenged, use the fear as a control to stop them expressing their unique opinions.
  • Those who lead the tribes, are copied and respected by the gurus and who express our true opinions, use the fear as confirmation to proceed and do work that matters.

In every case, my greatest victories came when I felt the fear and did it anyway:

  • Setting up my business.
  • Resetting my Twitter account to zero in February 2009, when I was one of the top 50 most followed people in the world on Twitter.
  • Deciding to leave London and move to a beautiful village in the countryside, leaving a great, 6 figure marketing business behind me.
  • … You get the picture.

Your compass.  Your choice

If you believe something you want to do or say is right, yet you are worried that people may disagree with you or question you, you have 2 options.  You can either pull back and get in line with the sheep or you can use that fear as a compass, to guide you into your own unique position in the marketplace.

If you lack visibility right now, I strongly suggest you consider the second of those options.  It might just be that turning point you have been searching for!

What everybody ought to know about making decisions

If you want to succeed in business, you need to learn how to make decisions, correctly.

Successful business owners are typically very good when it comes to making decisions.  They know that indecision costs them opportunities.  They get the facts they need, think about the proposition, often discuss it with others to get some feedback, then they decide.  They do this, in reasonable time.

Other business owners are poor at making key decisions.  The fear of making a bad decision sees them over analyze, until the opportunity has passed.  As a result, they place a very low ceiling on their potential; as progress comes from identifying and acting on opportunities.  These people are often waiting for certainties, unaware that the only certain thing in business, is that almost nothing is certain!

They then work hard all their lives, wondering why they never made it.

It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes.  What matters most is getting off the fence.  You cannot make progress without making decisions. ~
Jim Rohn

Your decisions.  Your progress

I was prompted to write this, after having lunch with a friend recently.

He explained that he had considered hiring a marketing professional, who had been highly recommended to him.  After meeting with her, he took 14 days to decide to offer her the position.  By then, she had already been employed by one of his competitors.  In the past 12 months, she has generated a fortune in business for them, attracted the second largest account in their marketplace and significantly increased and improved their profile.  He indecision has really cost him.

The price of indecision

You can’t make meaningful progress, until you acquire the courage of your convictions and the guts to back up your beliefs.  Whether it be yes or no, you need to decide within reasonable time or be willing to pay the price of indecision.  Reasonable time means not too soon, yet soon enough for you to be able to benefit from the decision.

Do you have any tips or suggestions, for people who are poor decision makers?  If you do, please share them with us with a comment below!

Steve Jobs, Seth Godin and The Secret Of Their Success!

(Update: I have written a follow-up to this post here)

Does the world really need another service provider, who is just a little less expensive, just a little faster or who offers just a little better customer service?

No: The marketplace is not excited or motivated by yet another pretty average provider.

What causes people to stand in line waiting to become your client or to tell the world how awesome you are, is when they encounter a business or person, doing something that is clearly, extra special.

This is what I call doing work that matters.

Work that matters

So, what am I referring to when I say work that matters?

I first picked up on the term, in an interview I heard a couple of years ago.  Seth Godin was being interviewed by Israel V, who asked him what his secret to success was.  Seth answered:

For 5 years, I was one payment away from bankruptcy.  I then decided to stop doing work that paid and focus on doing work that mattered.  I fired our biggest client, who was responsible for more than half our revenue!  They were making us unhappy and were changing who we were and how we did business.

It was a real watershed for me; having the guts to do that.  I told my team that this might be the end for us, but I think it is the right thing to do.  We stopped working on projects, which could make us money in a week and focused all our attention on doing work that mattered, things we would have worked on for free, if we could have afforded to. 

That shift meant a lot!

Work that pays

Almost every business focuses on working in a predictable way.  They stick within the confines of what their competitors do, because they believe that there is almost a guarantee that if they do, they will at least get a slice of the pie, even if it’s a small slice.  This is why so many businesses offer such a similar range of services to their competitors and end up attracting average clients, who pay them average fees.

Steve Jobs and work that matters

Only a tiny minority of people do work that matters.  They look at what the marketplace needs and they decide to provide it based on their unique approach.  Steve Jobs is a famous example of doing work that matters.  At a time when computer makers were constantly asking themselves, “how can we make this cheaper?” Jobs was asking “how can we make this so awesome that people will go crazy with excitement when they see it?”  The rest is history.

Here’s the challenge with ripping up the predictable model of a business in your industry, to focus exclusively on doing work that matters to you.

You won’t find the model for you and your business in any book!

There’s no for dummies guide.  There’s no turnkey solution.  There’s no manual either!  That’s because it has to be work that matters to YOU and your prospective clients.

It’s based around the way YOU see things:

  • Your values
  • Your beliefs
  • Your insights
  • Your experiences
  • Your passion
  • Your resources
  • Your imagination
  • Your goals
  • Your personality
  • Your dreams
  • Your faith
  • Your end game

Clearly, this approach is not for everyone.  But for those who can see the potential and who have the vision and the courage to make it work, the rewards are life changing.

It’s why I enjoy coaching people how to do work that matters, based on their uniqueness, more than any other work I do.  For my clients and myself, THIS is work that matters!

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up post, which takes this subject further and answers a key question, on how to start this process in your business!

Photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography and Seth Godin

How to build a valuable client list and a more profitable business

The way to build a great client list, is to feed your business with high quality leads, from your ideal profile of client.

It’s actually pretty simple to see how targeted your marketing has been up until now.  You just need to take a look at the quality and volume of the leads or inquiries your marketing generates.  If you tend to attract:

  • Leads from people who are fee sensitive
  • Leads from people, who you know will be a nightmare to work with
  • Too few leads

…then your marketing is clearly not effectively targeting the right people with the correct message.  You need to fix that quickly!

The quality of your client base will have a direct impact on the quality of your business and also your quality of life.  Because my marketing is targeted, I already know you are a small business owner and that you often work long hours too.  Working long hours on projects for low quality clients is stressful, unrewarding and frustrating.  You deserve better than that!

So, get specific

One of the first things I do when I start working with a new client, is to determine what their ideal client looks like.  From that point onward, everything we do is designed to attract these high quality, prospective clients.  By using marketing, which I design to be directly relevant to these extremely valuable people, my clients are able to redesign their client list and their business.  This has a positive impact on every element of their business and their quality of life.  It’s rewarding, fun and very profitable for them.

I suggest you do the same.  Get specific.  Understand that for your marketing to work, it needs to be directly relevant ONLY to your ideal profile of client. This is what makes it powerful enough to inspire people to take action and contact you. Your marketing can only be that compelling, when you speak directly to the right people, with the correct message.

If you would like me to help you, let me know.

Photo: toolstop

The secret to solving your biggest business challenges

Whatever problems your business is facing right now, the solution you need is available.

The question is, how committed are you to getting the answers you need?

Failure seldom happens overnight

If you had a broken water pipe, with water gushing out all over your home, ruining everything, you would very quickly call in a plumber.  Broken water pipes are great for getting people to take action, because the damage is obvious and it all happens very quickly.  When a business is in trouble, it usually happens over a longer period of time, often causing small business owners to put off getting help, until it’s too late.

It’s little wonder that most businesses go broke within the first 3 years and many more only exist, because the owner is just about breaking even.

Why do so many small business owners struggle needlessly?

Having worked with thousands of small business owners over the past 16 years, I see a very clear pattern.  Those who succeed are focused on success and those who struggle are focused on security.  Those who succeed have an entrepreneurial mindset, whilst those who struggle tend to have the mindset of an employee.  They want things to improve, they work hard, but they are so fixated on the potential for loss, that they fail to give their business the resources it needs.  These are the people Seth Godin refers to as sheepwalkers.

The paradox of security

Those focused on security, associate investment with risk; so they always under-invest in their business.  Paradoxically, in an effort to be more secure, they starve their business of exactly what it needs in order to secure it’s future!

If you have been looking for the solution to a business problem for some time and had no real success, now is the time for you to look in a better direction.  There are accountants who can get your finances in shape, marketing professionals who can help you get more high-value clients and lawyers, who can help you protect your business from legal issues.

In short:  Do your research.  Find the people with the answers you need and start achieving the results your hard work deserves.

Or don’t.

Thankfully, the choice is always yours!

Give until it STOPS hurting

One of the cornerstones of effective marketing, is to focus on your prospective clients and their needs, rather than your own.

Some call it paying it forward.

Others call it contribution.

You can call it whatever you like, but it’s the same thing:  Focusing your efforts on the other guy and not on yourself.

Bring the marketplace your seed, not your need

Ask a farmer and she will tell you that if you want a bountiful harvest, you need to bring your seeds to the soil, not your needs.  You can tell the soil how much you need a great harvest and pester it for months and nothing productive will happen.

The marketplace is very similar!

Pester people for leads at networking events and you will find it a time-consuming and unrewarding exercise.  Equally, sending people letters or emails they never asked for, all about the benefits of working with you, can be a costly process.

It’s also unnecessary, in my experience.

The thing is, you don’t need to pester anyone.  Your prospective clients present you with an opportunity to plant as many seeds of contribution as you want to.  For example, I reach thousands of prospective clients daily, by giving away as much useful information as I can via my blogs and social networking accounts.  Without pestering anyone, I generate leads and sales every day.  But to earn that privilege, I have to consistently focus on you, your needs and how I can deliver valuable, free information that will be of use to you.

The bottom line is that the process of giving and receiving, starts with giving.  So, if you need some more high quality clients right now, give until it stops hurting!

Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis

What’s the problem?

To fix a problem, you need to start off by acknowledging you actually have a problem.

I was thinking about this earlier, when I decided to stop spending money with a provider, who has  apparently lost a lot of customers recently.  In short, the quality of service went from just above average when they launched it, to way below par, after 6 months.

The reason for this post, is that the owner of that business shared something in common with many low quality service providers: Whenever you brought a problem to his attention, his automatic response was always to deny there was a problem.  He would brush off all negative feedback, ignoring it completely.

The challenge with that approach, is that you can’t fix a problem unless you believe you have one.

The value of feedback

Yes, some customers or clients will voice concerns, that are more to do with them than with you or your service, but all feedback needs to be noted.  For example, if people are telling you that they can’t find something when they visit your website or walk into your store, the solution is not to assume your customers are fools.  The solution is to fix the UI (user interface) or redesign the layout of your store, so that people can find things easily.

It’s always good to keep an open mind, when you receive feedback.  No, you don’t need to act on everything everyone says, but unless you listen to what the marketplace is telling you, you can never be much better than average.

Photo: GammaMan

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